Whanganui is celebrating a cluster of wins for people with disabilities this week as teenage actor Libby Hunsdale and local business GPSOS bring home trophies from the 2020 Attitude Awards held in Auckland on Wednesday night.
And disability advocate Sir Robert Martin has learned that he has been re-elected to the United Nations Committee of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for a second four-year term. He is the first and only person with an intellectual disability to be on a UN Committee of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
After being re-elected with the largest number of votes of 27 candidates, he has been staying up all night during the past week to cyber connect with the 2020 UN committee conference in New York.
"There is still a lot to be done and it never ends," he said.
''We are working with a vibrant, living document and it is hearts and minds work."
Martin said he was rapt to learn about the Whanganui Attitude Award winners.
"I knew Libby's grandfather and he always talked about her so I know he'd be very proud."
The Attitude Awards coincide with the 2020 International Day of People With Disabilities (IDPWD) and the black-tie gala ceremony was held at Auckland's Cordis Hotel.
Workbridge Whanganui employment consultant Jan Lawton has been nominating Whanganui employers for the Attitude ACC Employer Award for several years and was thrilled to be at the ceremony to see GPSOS win this year.
"We've all got tears in our eyes," she said.
"GPSOS has over 40 people with disabilities in their workforce and they are brilliant employers.
"I am elated for them."
Mark Simmonds founded GPSOS last year and worked with Lawton to recruit staff with the right abilities. The company's staff have worked through Covid-19 restrictions this year to support customers using their independence medical alarms. Chief operations manager Scott Lee trained a group of new staff on Zoom during the lockdown.
The company employs 40 staff with disabilities and Simmonds said he is very happy with his team.
"My belief is that if someone has an ability, they deserve an opportunity," Simmonds said.
"We have a dedicated and loyal workforce who always arrive early for their shifts and do a great job."
Previous Whanganui finalists in the category are Pacific Helmets and Axiam Plastics.
Whanganui Girls' College student Libby Hunsdale won the 2020 Attitude Youth Courage Award.
It has been a big year for the plucky teenager who played the lead role in Poppy, a film made in Kapiti this year by filmmaker Linda Niccol (Second-Hand Wedding). It tells the story of a determined young woman with Down Syndrome who wants to become a motor mechanic.
Niccol cast Libby from a group of young hopefuls because she personified the qualities she was looking for.
"Libby had just the right essence, the right kind of vivaciousness for the character," she said.
Libby said she identified with the character because she is also a determined person.
"Poppy is a lot like me - she doesn't let anything hold her back."
According to the WHO World Report on Disability, 15 per cent of the world's population, or more than 1 billion people, are living with disability. Of this number, it's estimated 450 million are living with a mental or neurological condition— and two-thirds of these people will not seek professional medical help, largely because of stigma, discrimination and neglect.